Not a few have dubbed Jim Iyke, ‘Nollywood bad boy’ but, love or hate him, the fashionable actor continues to enjoy a rising profile amidst several controversies. In this interview with PREMIUM TIMES, the University of Jos Philosophy graduate, opened up on things close to his heart as well as his latest venture.
PT: You have become quite picky about your movie roles of late. Why is this so?
Jim: I just didn’t want to be labeled as just an actor alone. I have so many unfulfilled dreams and I decided that I would outlive them. I am my hardest critic. Everyone is particularly extremely good at one thing in life but while you are comfortable in it, it may not give you the complete financial dependence you need. Nollywood gave birth to my prominence and I will always be grateful. I always come back to Nollywood but I don’t agree with the policies. I have acted with everyone I have always wanted to work with. I have played vast characters. But, when you wake up in the morning and your heart is not beating for what you do, you have to move on until the passion returns. I needed to go find things that would challenge me.
PT: Don’t you miss starring in Nollywood movies all the while?
Jim: I do. Acting is my first love. I still act. I have released three films this year. I starred in Stalker and American Driver which were shot in the United States. I just finished a movie I wrote called, Colour 25.
PT: Do you like the fact that people tagged you ‘Nollywood Bad Boy’?
Jim: It worked for a while but you know this “bad boy” tag comes handy once in a while. It teaches people not to take you for granted.
PT: Speaking with you is quite obvious that you have undergone a process…
Jim: It is said that it takes a life or death to irrevocably change someone. It can happen in the stretch of your lifetime but mine happened within a year. My mum fell ill, and I had to move to Abuja to take care of her. We saw a lot of specialists and at the end of the day I lost her. I was completely inconsolable but I couldn’t show that outwardly. I had to carry on like I was fine just because other people who I also love have to survive. I have six sisters. My dad was falling apart. Our last-born was just beginning to find her feet as a woman. So I had to be there for everybody. And when everybody found their feet, I found myself falling because taking care of them kept me going at the time.
PT: So, how did you bounce back?
Jim: I had to find my feet and that was when my girlfriend got pregnant and birthed my son. I had to reach within the deepest part of my soul to be there for him. I had no mother at the time to teach me the process of taking care of a baby. I turned to Google; I googled how to change diapers and how to feed him. My girlfriend was also a young girl and it was her first child. Her mum and my sisters wanted to come but I didn’t let them. I knew it was something I needed to do. I shut down my life for an entire year for my son. I cradled him, bathed him and we even showered together. So it all completely changed my life. It taught me a different lesson. My respect and love for women grew at this time.
PT: Will you eventually marry your baby mama?
Jim: At some point, she meant a lot to me than anyone else. When I meet somebody that understands me, I become blind to every other thing. She used to be the only lady who understood me. She knew when I wanted to be left alone all day to study. I think everything in a relationship is about force now because everyone is trying to impress each other. I have never been interested in impressing people.
PT: You evaded the question.
Jim: No comment.
PT: You and the Ghanaian star, Nadia Buari, used to be an item. Are you still best of friends?
Jim: Things didn’t get messy as people thought. Two people met in the entertainment industry and there was a reality show at a time that kept us together. So, we did a smart thing anybody who found himself or herself in such situation would have done. And when the entertainment was over, we moved on to our normal lives.
For anyone who thought anything extraordinary happened, it was a live show except that it played into our personal lives too. I got what I wanted, which was followership and I appreciate the audience for watching. She understood what she was coming into and I understood as well. We got the mileage we both wanted and we moved on with our lives. Five years down the lane, people are still talking about it.
PT: What has been happening to your clothing line, Untamed Closet?
Jim: I have invested in diverse backgrounds and platforms and I kept losing. I mean you grow a start-up business to a certain level and you believe that the person you are entrusting it to shares the same vision with you and it never turns out that way. It is a grievous human error. It has nothing to do with if they are family or personal friends, people do not share your passion. Of course, they don’t know the genesis of the money you have invested. They all believe there is always enough to throw around. People had to be fired. At that time in my life too, my sisters were all going to different schools and thankfully everybody have the masters they wanted. Many people I handed companies over didn’t do well as much as I wanted. The complaint most times is that my standards are too high. I want to be a perfectionist. I can’t water down what I am used to. The person I put in charge of Untamed Closet appeared to have a vision at the time until clients started complaining about so many things. I am assembling a group of investors to go back to that.
PT: Do you design your outfits all by yourself?
JIM: I design them. I am a very good designer. Another thing people didn’t know is that I took a month off to work in a proper store in Manhattan just to learn the ropes in fashion. I worked from sales boy to supervisor. People come through the store trying to figure out if I was the same popular African actor. I got busted once. The lady kept staring at me and when she figured me out, she walked up to me and said, “did things go that bad? Why are you working here?” I told her you must serve to learn how to lead. I learned that from my dad.
PT: Many people called you a joker when you launched a music career years ago.
Jim: People asked why did I do music and I said I have to be a musician to understand how to run a record label. I have to understudy a producer so I can become a producer. It is a format I have worked with all my life. I just wanted to play and have a little bit of fun and create a company/record label and I succeeded. I like to do things that are fun and music is one of them .I plan to sign up more artistes but my plate is full right now.
PT: You also had a reality show, ‘Jim lyke Unscripted’ why did you halt it?’
Jim: I didn’t have a life at the time I was shooting the reality show. I was socially redundant. I was only seeing my family twice in a year or thereabout. Do you remember that the reality show was domiciled in Ghana? The deal we also got from Virgin Atlantic Airlines to fly me all over the world was domiciled in Ghana as well.
The reality show made me reside in a different country. I was flying everywhere and constantly living in hotels. At some point, I felt it was not the kind of lifestyle I wanted for myself.
PT: What are you working on now?
Jim: I call my new project the “Adventurer.” We want to take people from diverse backgrounds, between the ages of 18 to 35, to an exotic location and away from their comfort zones. We would put them in a room and force them to have a conversation. By the time they come out from the house, they will not be the same again. We may not have N30 million to give them, but we will teach them how to catch fish.